Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Data Visualization

There has been a shift in how data is consumed in the last 5 to 8 years. Appropriately so, I believe the consuming data in context and particularly the proper use of process based portals has changed how the typical end-user believes they should be able to find information. Over the next 5 to 8 years I believe the contextual process based mini-portals will become the norm for consumption (some call these mashups). During that time I believe another shift will occur and that is how we view the data that is now gathered in one place. Data Visualization is a term I take a little bit of leeway with. People usually stove pipe data visualization but to me it can mean any image or model that is driven or associated with data. By the way, I like to remind people that this is not a new thing either. The GIS community has been doing this for a decade. The spreadsheet folks have been doing this for longer than that with its charting and mapping capabilities. We were even doing this in Lotus Notes back in the early to mid 90s with hotspot images front-ending a database application.

The reason that I think data visualization is that next wave is for two reasons. The first reason is that for complex processes it is the simplest means for consuming mashed up data. Take a product like OpenView or Tivoli. No one really wants to wade through all of the different log files, patch information, system components, etc… they just want to look at a network topology map and see if the box/line/etc… is green or red. In these types of instances, there is data overload when simply monitoring the exception and quickly understanding what that exception means in context is the most important task. The second reason is that we are getting a huge wave into the workforce of users in the US that are gamers. Gamers are use to data visualization. Go play WoW, EQ2, Half Life, Vanguard, CoH, etc… and you soon get an idea of the vast amount of data that is contained in a world of nothing but visualization. Spend some time in Sims online or Second Life and you see the same model alive and well in a virtual but not game specific community. These users will demand data visualization because they understand the power of it. Being a gamer for so long, I might be biased on this but personally I am deeply excited.

For me I see data visualization as the end to the document/record model we are so trapped in today and instead data could take any form. Think of it like nature in that data is the DNA that makes up the final organism (visualization). The visualization layers will become just as dynamic and will be able to take form based on the smallest component’s sequencing, function and placement. If you want to see someone that gets it, go check out Their Bridgeworks Engine/Platform shows just a piece of what they are capable of and just a pinhole for where this area is going but man what a sight and hope through that pinhole!!